St. Francis Hospital - Litchfield

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

St. Francis Hospital - Litchfield Illinois
St. Francis Hospital - Litchfield Illinois

Such is the sentiment of every true Hospital Sister of St. Francis. Such was the sentiment which filled the hearts of five Sisters who established the Motherhouse of the Hospital Sisters of Saint Francis in Muenster, Germany, in 1844. Thirty years later, aflame with this same zeal, an intrepid band of missionary Sisters left the Motherhouse and came to Illinois to found the American Province of this Congregation. Due to differences between the rulers of Germany and the Vatican, the scope of their work of more than two decades was struck a stunning blow by the passage of restrictive laws against Catholic Communities.

During this time of peril, there came an invitation from the Bishop of Alton, Illinois. He desperately needed nursing Sisters in his diocese, and wanted the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis to found a community there. On October 15, 1875, twenty Hospital Sisters said their goodbyes as they left their Motherhouse in Muenster. The following day they boarded the ship MAAS in Rotterdam and sailed for the United States. By November 3, the MAAS was standing in New York harbor, and by nightfall of November 6, the Sisters were in Alton, as they were eager to get to their new field of service. Imagine a group of twenty Sisters riding through the streets of Alton in a huge open wagon! Villagers stared in candid surprise as the wagon rumbled through the town. They were welcomed kindly by Bishop Baltes, who on the following day presented his plans to them. They were to separate into groups, going to various Illinois towns to start their work.

Three Sisters were appointed to go to Litchfield, Illinois. They were Sisters Fridolina, Rosa, and Augustina. They arrived here on November 13, 1875, and started the first foundation of their nursing career. These three Sisters were given living accommodations in the upper story of the John Weigers home on West Edwards Street, at which place they remained for three months.

The first hospital was a frame building on the southeast corner of the intersection of Columbia and Jackson Streets, which was used until 1891. In this year the first wing of the present hospital was erected on South State Street, which accommodated twenty patients. This building was of brick, 60 x 45 x 30 feet.

In 1906 a suite of operating rooms was added and a new elevator installed. This addition was built to the northeast of the original building at a cost of $20,000. The third story of the hospital was added in 1911, and at the same time additional rooms for the patients were built to the south. Two years later, in 1913, the present operating rooms and more patients' rooms, to the east, were built. The chapel, Girls' Home and Convent were added in 1923 at a cost of $112,543. The last addition was made in 1931, a 40 foot building, which consists of the lobby, offices, and a new elevator, erected at a cost of $34,000.

New equipment has been placed in the various departments through the years to meet the demands of the medical field in aiding the sick and dying. The Blood Bank was started in October, 1948, and is completely equipped to meet its requirements.

Records show that Mayor Henry L. Shroeder gave the first pint of blood. A new $17,000 X-ray table, Maxicon, was installed in 1951, making this department, headed by a full-time radiologist, Dr. Harry A. Olin, complete in service and equipment. At present the hospital has a capacity of 157 adult beds and 18 bassinets. In 1891, 37 patients were cared for; in 1952, a total of 4,500 persons received care as bed patients.

These changes and additions through the years were accomplished by the prayers and sacrifices of our pioneer Sisters, and the cooperation of our doctors and the people of Litchfield and surrounding areas. As we glance back through the years, we find that many of the people who assisted the hospital in its growth, are still remembered and revered by the citizens of Litchfield and will be thought of in years to come. Prominent among the early physicians of this city was Dr. J. D. Colt, who was interested in the progress of our hospital, and who actively assisted in the fund-raising campaign for the first electric elevator installed in the hospital in 1906. The names of many others are closely linked with the history of St. Francis, namely, Doctors Harry A. Bennett, Myron Snell, and Kelly. More recently called from our midst were Doctors George A. Sihler, Sr., George A. Sihler, Jr., and Lee G. Allen. To these dear departed we owe a debt of gratitude for their service and loyalty.

To our present Litchfield medical staff we owe a like debt: Doctors C. H. Zoller, Ross W. Griswold, C. H. Sihler, J. R. Rebillot, H. A. Yaeger, N. K. Floreth, and L. George Allen.

It is interesting to note that one of the patients who entered the old hospital on Jackson and Columbia Streets, was transferred to the new hospital in 1891, and is still with us. Bridget McGrath, familiar to many in Litchfield, now 81 years of age, was injured as a young girl and has been with the hospital ever since in an employee-patient capacity, and to this very day continues to attend daily Mass in our Hospital Chapel. More than this, she is not able to do, but needless to say, she has grown dear to all at St. Francis.

Especially are we indebted to our dear pioneer Sisters, whose sacrifices and labors will never be known, except to God, and whose devotion and love for the sick can never be equaled. Still living in the memories of our Litchfield people are our Sister Jerome, one of the hospital's early superiors, Sister Beda, Sister Celestine, and many others who have gone to their eternal reward. Still living is Sister Lawrence, who loves to recall her days of service spent at St. Francis Hospital years ago, and who now is happy to spend the evening of her life after her long years of faithful toil for the Lord, “back home” at the Motherhouse in Springfield.

To these dear Sisters and to all the friends of St. Francis Hospital - may God’s choicest blessings abound. By the power and grace of the provident Master of all, The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis will go on to greater accomplishments. Cherishing always the ideals of the “Little Poor Man of Assisi,” may we carry on as faithfully as ever, inspired and encouraged and strengthed by the stirring truth of our motto: ”Caritas Christi Omnia Vincit.” & “The Charity of Christ conquers all!”

Taken from: Litchfield Centennial Book 1853-1953

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Jeff Dunn

Vice President

Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

Historical Society